In the year 2000, Arvid Carlsson was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his pioneering research on the signal substances of the brain.
By acquiring knowledge on how substances such as dopamine and serotonin can be influenced, Arvid Carlsson and his research team are now part of developing medicines that increase the mobility of Parkinson’s patients and help improve the lives of those with schizophrenia. In addition, their research is laying the foundation for today’s modern medicines against anxiety and depression.
In close cooperation with the industry
Arvid Carlsson is one of the Gothenburg researchers who set the stage for close cooperation with the pharmaceuticals company Astra Hässle, later AstraZeneca – a collaboration that led to internationally renowned medicines like Seloken, Zelmid, Plendil and Losec.
Forty year old discovery
As much as forty years ago, Arvid Carlsson was able to demonstrate that dopamine acts as a message carrier molecule in the brain, and that a shortage of this substance gives rise to impaired motor skills in the case of Parkinson's disease, for example.
In clinical studies, an agent which is converted into dopamine in the brain, DOPA, was found to lead to massively improved motor skills in many severely disabled patients. Even now this agent is the most effective treatment available for Parkinson's disease.
Multiple scientific breakthroughs
Arvid Carlsson's studies into the function of dopamine led to another scientific breakthrough in 1963. He discovered that the medications which ease the symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychotic diseases take effect by reducing the influence of dopamine in the brain. Arvid Carlsson and his colleagues were also the first people to realise that selective amplification of the signal substance serotonin is an effective and gentle way of treating depression. Prozac, which revolutionised the treatment of depression and anxiety diseases, is based on this mode of action.
The observation stating that it is possible to influence the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and psychosis by modifying dopamine activity has been of crucial importance to our understanding of these diseases. But even more important is the fact that these studies have made it clear for the first time that it is actually possible to influence the function of the brain by modulating the signal substances that deal with communication between the neurons by means of medicines. More or less all later research into pharmaceutical therapy for neurological and psychiatric diseases is based on this strategy demonstrated by Arvid Carlsson.